“Just say the words viking to anyone, and it conjures up amazing thoughts and images. They’re inspiring people. And I wanted to introduce the world to the race of people that were amazing.”
That’s the answer from show runner Michael Hirst when asked why his original series has captivated such an audience. Since it’s March 3 debut, the show has shattered records and captured the attention of millions – enough to grant it the gift of a season two renewal.
“I certainly didn’t want to end it at the end of season one, because we’ve got all these great characters up and running,” admitted Hirst. And there’s a lot to say and tell about Ragnar, who is an extraordinary character, who has had an extraordinary career. There are a lot of unresolved issues at the end of episode nine that needed at least another season to resolve and deal with, so I was extremely happy it was picked up again.”
Read below for more from Hirst, including what’s coming up on Sunday’s season finale, and what he expect to explore next season.
How does Rollo reconcile his ambition with his love of his brother and essential portrayal of his brother?
“That’s a very big issue in the finale. Rollo…you can feel for the guy to some extent, that he does live in the shadow of an extremely successful sibling who’s becoming increasingly famous. And in Viking society, fame and renown were very important. So you have a guy who is clearly a great warrior, clearly a great fighter, and he’s suffering in comparison with his outstandingly gifted brother. So he has a lot of unresolved issues, including his continued love for Lagertha [Katheryn Winnick]. In Viking society, families were very important – they fought together, they were very close knit. And the relationship between Ragnar and Rollo comes to a head in the last episode.”
Can you talk a bit about the inclusion of Donal Logue [King Horik] into the series, and about his potential involvement in season two?
“He’s a historically based character. He’s a very important character, and I was delighted with Donal’s casting. He does develop very, very significantly in the new season…I’ve already started to write the next season. He’s a major player, a major character. I also have to say, without giving too much away, a very complex character. He’s somewhat unexpected and it’s very difficult to read him and I think audiences will find him full of contradictions and to me, as a writer, it makes him very fascinating. I can absolutely promise that this is a major character who came into the scene last week and he’s going to be a very major force in the coming season.”
A lot of showrunners tend to have a team of writers them, but you’ve written every episode yourself.
“I wrote every episode of The Tudors as well, and I confess that my problem is probably that I can’t delegate. [Laughs] I find it very hard to give up material that I feel so personally involved with – I wouldn’t mind trying, but the idea of giving my babies away to other people to play with…isn’t a great one when I feel inspired to do the work.”
The show’s opening credit sequence is gorgeous. How much of a role did you play in putting that together?
“The Fever ray song was chosen by our first Scandinavian director, Johan Renck. Johan is also one of the world’s foremost musical video directors and he knows a lot about music. It was one of these things about the show from the get go, that we wanted to do something different, that we knew we were saying something different about the Vikings, that we were going to surprise people, that there are so many clichés we wanted to dispense with and really get people thinking a different way. So we wanted a different kind of music, a different kind of approach, we wanted a contemporary edge so people didn’t think that this was a museum piece, and I think we achieved that. It’s a joy for me is to be able to work with other creative people at the top of their game.”
How is the relationship between Ragnar and Athelstan going to change after Athelstan wasn’t sacrificed? Are we going to see some kind of fallout?
“There isn’t an immediate fallout from that, because one of the thing that Athelstan will understand – or come to understand – is that Ragnar wasn’t going to sacrifice him because he hated him. He was going to sacrifice him because he thought he was worthy of sacrifice. He liked him. It’s one of the strange counter-intuitive things about Vikings. They liked going into battle. Athelstan is trying to understand and learn these very strange pagan ways…and in a curious way it was a compliment that Ragnar wanted to crucify him, which is why Ragnar’s close friends volunteered to be crucified instead. His story becomes even richer and more interesting as we get into the next season. He’s certainly a very major character in the show.”
Be sure to catch all the action on the season finale of Vikings, airing Sunday at 10/9c on HISTORY.